CATSKILL — The attorney representing the estate of Jason Jones, who died from severe burns the night before Halloween in the Catskill police station, has sent a letter to New York State Attorney General Letitia James seeking information about where her office’s investigation stands.
Alexis Richards, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General, said Tuesday in an email only that the investigation is continuing and that the office would have no further comment at this time.
Albany attorney Kevin A. Luibrand, who is representing Jason Jones’ family, said Tuesday he expected correspondence from the Attorney General but has received no word on the investigation.
“The civil case is moving forward, but I sent a letter to the Attorney General asking about the status of the criminal investigation,” Luibrand said. “I expected to hear something by now.”
The Attorney General’s office has been investigating the case for 16 months, but has not issued an official report or filed any charges.
Three Catskill village police officers are named as defendants in a federal lawsuit filed in the case. Jason Jones, 27, a former star Catskill High School athlete, died two months after he burst into flames when one of the officers fired a stun gun at him after he doused himself with flammable hand sanitizer.
The lawsuit accuses police officers Mark Nazi, Daniel Goldpaugh and Nicholas J. Craig of using excessive force, failing to follow accepted police procedure and running away rather than giving Jones medical aid as he burned for less than a minute in the waiting area of the village police station Oct. 30, 2021. Nazi allegedly fired the stun gun.
Jason Jones’ elder brother, Justin Jones, who lives in San Juan County, Washington, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court of the Northern District of New York. Justin Jones, who was appointed executor of his brother’s estate May 4, 2022, also accused various “unnamed agents and employees of the village of Catskill” in the lawsuit.
Under state law, the Attorney General’s office is authorized to investigate cases involving civilians who die as a result of encounters with police.
On Oct. 30, 2021, Jason Jones walked into the Catskill police station at 422 Main St., and talked to the three officers, showing signs of emotional distress, according to the 17-page lawsuit. Jones emptied his pockets and removed his shirt and shoes. He had not been charged with a crime.
After Jones and the three officers talked, he left the waiting area without his shirt and shoes, returned and picked up a bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Jones then poured the hand sanitizer over his head and upper body, witnessed by the officers, according to court papers.
The stun gun charge ignited Jones’ head and torso into flames, but the officers ran out of the room without rendering assistance, according to court papers. A person who saw the events from outside came into the waiting area and provided non-medical care to Jones as the three officers continued to watch.
“For approximately six minutes, the defendants saw that Jason Jones was having difficulty breathing and had sustained burns to his head, face, chest, neck, abdomen, back, arms, hands and torso,” according to the lawsuit.
Jones then collapsed to the floor near the bench in the waiting room. The police officers continued to stand near him and did not render medical assistance, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit further alleges the three police officers were trained not to use a stun gun on a person who has been exposed to flammable or combustible materials. They are also instructed not to use the devices on “an emotionally disturbed person who is not a threat to themselves or others.”
A video depicting the incident was released by the attorney general’s office in 2022. It showes two of the police officers running out of the waiting room and closing the door behind them when Jones burst into flames. The third officer also ran toward the front door of the police station.
Jones suffered external first-degree and second-degree burns to his face, neck, chest and back, and severe injuries to his lungs, according to the lawsuit. He was taken to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, where he was treated in the intensive care unit. He suffered burns to between 20% and 30% of his body.
He suffered acute respiratory failure and damage to his internal organs, according to the lawsuit. He was hospitalized for 46 days and died Dec. 15, 2021.
The incident unfolded when village police responded to a disturbance at the Avalon Lounge at the corner of Water and Church streets, near the police station.
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